In the News
May 12, 2023

Turkey’s Erdogan faces toughest test yet in landmark election — with high stakes for the world

“This is definitely going to be the closest electoral contest Erdogan has faced since taking power in 2002,” said Ryan Bohl, a senior Middle East and North Africa analyst at Rane.

There is also anger at the government for its slow response to a series of devastating earthquakes in February that killed more than 50,000 people in both Turkey and Syria, especially concerning corrupt practices that allowed construction firms to skirt building safety regulations. But the vast majority of Turks in the affected areas are longtime supporters of Erdogan’s party, the AKP, and seem to have faith in Erdogan’s pledge to have those cities rebuilt within a year, analysts say.

The stakes are high for the entire country and, more broadly, global geopolitics – and the mood on the ground is tense. Opinion polls are very close with most currently showing Kilicdaroglu ahead, but not by much. Many are asking: if Erdogan loses, will he actually leave?

“I’m very concerned that [Erdogan] may deploy underhanded tactics, cheating and even violence,” Ibish said. “Of course, that can provoke extreme measures from the other side. So it’s a moment of high anxiety.”

CNBC has reached out to the Turkish Presidency’s office for comment.

The presidential election has two rounds. If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote in the first round — which is widely expected to be the case — the vote goes to a runoff that will be held two weeks later.

Turkey’s economy has been in a downward spiral for the past five years, in which time its currency, the lira, lost 77% of its value against the dollar, inflation has ballooned and unemployment has largely worsened. Turkey’s official inflation rate is more than 50%, though economists say in reality it’s higher than 100%.  

“The economy is top of the minds for ordinary Turks and is the driving force behind the weakening support for the government,” Rane’s Bohl said. “If Erdogan and the AKP do lose power, it’ll be almost entirely on economic grounds.”

Read the full CNBC article by Natasha Turak here.